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DeVos funded Senator Tuberville, White Nationalism and the history of the US Military

May 17, 2023

Senator Tommy Tuberville has been in the news in the past week, for comments he made about White Nationalists in the US Military. 

In an interview that aired on NPR member station WBHM in Alabama, here is the exchange between Senator Tuberville and Richard Banks, who is with WBHM. 

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE: We are losing in the military so fast our readiness in terms of recruitment. And why? I’ll tell you why: because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying, “We need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t — don’t believe in our agenda, as the Joe Biden agenda.” They’re destroying it. 

RICHARD BANKS: You mentioned the Biden administration trying to prevent white nationalists from being in the military. Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.

Tuberville, you might recall, made another outlandish comment just after he was elected in November of 2020, when he said: “I tell people, my Dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of Socialism.” Tuberville made this comment during his acceptance speech, when he won the Senatorial seat in Alabama. At the time, GRIID wrote about Tuberville’s lack of understanding about history, but also that he received substantial support from the DeVos family during his 2020 election bid. Here is part of what we wrote:

The DeVos cartel contributed nearly $1 million to the Republican Senate Leadership Fund, which contributed money to several key GOP Senate candidates, like Tommy Tuberville in Alabama. Tuberville, the former Auburn football coach, also received $14,000 in campaign contributions from individual members of the DeVos cartel.

A distorted view of US Military History

Now, it is important to examine the comments of Senator Tuberville, specifically about White Nationalists in the US Military. According to a 2022 article in The Guardian: One in five applicants to the white supremacist group Patriot Front claimed to hold current or former ties to the US military, according to leaked documents published and reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and alternative media collective Unicorn Riot. 

White Nationalists groups in the US have been know to join the US military as a way to recruit people to their cause and to promote White Supremacy. Hell, even an October 2020 report from the Pentagon acknowledges that White Nationals and White Supremacists have infiltrated the US Military. According to one source on the Pentagon’s report:

The Pentagon report said U.S. military personnel and veterans are “highly prized” recruits for supremacist groups, and leaders of those groups try to join the military themselves and get those already in their groups to enlist. Their goal is to obtain weapons and skills and to try to borrow the military’s bravado and cachet, the authors suggested.

Therefore, Tuberville’s comments above are either a reflection of his failure to acknowledge even the Pentagon’s assertion about White Nationalists or the Senator from Alabama embraces White Nationalism and White Supremacy. My guess is that it is a bit of both.

The US Military and White Supremacy

However, I have a fundamental problem with how this issue is being discussed. Yes, it seems clear that White Nationalists are encouraging their members to join the US military, to learn skills, and to recruit new members. But, if we think about White Nationalism and White Supremacy as systems and not as what individuals embrace, then we might have a different understanding of what the function of the US Military is.

Long time educator and activist, Elizabeth Martinez, who has been part of the Challenging White Supremacy Workshops over the years, provides us with this definition of White Supremacy.

With this definition, I would argue that the US Military, since it was founded, has been about the business of oppressing and exploiting other nations, beginning with Native Nations, for the purpose of defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. 

Look at the excellent chronological list of US military interventions that Professor Zoltan Grossman has put together, then tell me that these interventions overwhelmingly meet the definition of White Supremacy from Elizabeth Martinez.

The US Military has always been about expanding US territory, expanding access to resources for US-based Capitalists and in most cases intervening in non-White dominated countries. While I agree it is important to discuss and investigate White Nationalist infiltration of the US Military, we need to have an honest conversation about how the US Military has been used as a mechanism to conquer and amass wealth by those who benefit from a system of White Supremacy.

Billionaires spent more money in the 2022 Elections than in any previous campaign cycle, with the DeVos family leading the way in Michigan

May 16, 2023

According to a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness, US Billionaires spent over $1 Billion in the 2022 Midterm Elections, which is the most the Billionaire class has ever spent during any election cycle.

In the introduction to this new report, it states: 

Billionaires have plenty of money with which to try to buy elections, their net worth increased by 58% to a staggering $4.7 trillion during the roughly three years of the pandemic alone. The failure of America’s tax system to fairly tax the income and wealth of billionaires leaves the with lots of excess cash to spend on candidates and causes. Meanwhile, the breakdown of campaign-finance controls since the Supreme Court’s notorious Citizens United decision in 2010 has made it easy for tycoons to translate their economic clout into political power.

Billionaires in Michigan also contributed significantly to this increase in campaign funding by Billionaires, with Dan Gilbert, the Stryker family, and Hank & Doug Meijer among those who influenced the 2022 Elections. However, of all the members of the Billionaire Class in Michigan, the DeVos family contributed the most in the 2022 Midterm Elections. 

As we documented in November of 2022, the DeVos family spent $12,304,750 to influence electoral outcomes, and that was just in Michigan. The DeVos family has also contributed millions to political candidates in other states, which you can research at Lastly, there is Dark Money contributions that the DeVos family has made, but are difficult to track since many of these Dark Money groups do not reveal who their contributors are. For more on Dark Money groups, go here

The Americans for Tac Fairness report concludes by saying:

We must end the vicious cycle of the ultra-wealthy using their vast fortunes to exploit a broken campaign finance system to support candidates who will cut their taxes, allowing them to amass even greater wealth which they can use to continue the process. When billionaires throw huge sums of money into elections, they shape the debate to their liking and in the process distort what limited form of democracy that exists in the US. 

Of course, like all necessary changes, this will have to happen from the bottom up, since neither the Republican or Democratic Parties are interested in limiting the role that the Billionaire Class plays in Electoral Politics or Public Policy.

Funding priorities for the City of Grand Rapids: Business Districts are a priority, Affordable Housing not so much

May 15, 2023

For years now, there has been a growing demand from the public to get the City of Grand Rapids to do more around the issue of housing, particularly affordable housing.

This push from the public has happened in part because of the push back against the gentrification of numerous neighborhoods throughout Grand Rapids. However, the demands around housing have also come as a result of the increased number of those who are unhoused, and how the City of Grand Rapids has in many ways criminalized those who are unhoused. Lastly, the so-called housing market in this city has seen the cost of housing, whether it is the cost of buying a home or the cost of rent, increase at such a pace that is staggering.

Therefore, push back on all three fronts – resistance to gentrification, how the unhoused are treated, and the increase in housing/rental costs – has pushed the City of Grand Rapids to craft some newer policies around housing, along with a new Affordable Housing Fund that was created in the Fall of 2021. 

The Affordable Housing Fund has set aside $5 Million to fund affordable housing and homelessness prevention projects in the city, according to an MLive story that was posted earlier this year. The city’s relatively new Affordable Housing Fund Board is seeking applications from organizations that could use a share of $5 million in federal stimulus dollars to complete that work.

One could certainly say that for the City of Grand Rapids to tackle the issue of Affordable Housing, setting aside $5 Million, is a victory for those who have been pushing for these demands over the past decade. However, in the big scheme of things, $5 Million dollars isn’t a great deal of money, especially considering the size of the annual City Budget, which for the 2023 fiscal year was $597,859,508. This means that with a City budget just shy of $600 Million, setting aside $5 Million for Affordable Housing seems rather small.

In looking at a comparison to the $5 Million for the Affordable Housing Fund and put that next to budget allocations for business development, the amount for the Affordable Housing Fund is almost an embarrassment. 

During the May 9th Grand Rapids Committee of the Whole meeting, there were numerous 2024 budget items that were excepted without question, all of which centered around business development or business districts. Here is the breakdown for these 2024 budget items, which you can read in detail at this link. Number 7 on the Agenda for the May 9th Committee of the Whole meeting says:

Overview of FY2024 budgets for boards and authorities administered by the Economic Development Department and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. with appropriation requests totaling $45,375,682. 

Here is the breakdown of that $45,375,682: 

  • City of Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority – $22,829,602 
  • City of Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority – $15,382,500 
  • City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Corporation – $120,201 
  • City of Grand Rapids Michigan Street Corridor Improvement Authority – $505,000 
  • City of Grand Rapids Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority – $875,124 
  • City of Grand Rapids North Quarter Corridor Improvement Authority – $155,000 
  • City of Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority – $2,746,522 City of Grand Rapids South Division- Grandville Corridor Improvement Authority – $384,000 
  • City of Grand Rapids Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority – $750,432 
  • City of Grand Rapids Uptown Business Improvement District – $122,840 
  • City of Grand Rapids Uptown Corridor Improvement Authority – $534,461 
  • City of Grand Rapids West Side Corridor Improvement Authority – $970,000 

This is a great deal of money that is fundamentally going to subsidize economic development, business districts, etc. So, why is the City of Grand Rapids willing to provide $45 Million and change for business districts, yet only $5 Million for Affordable Housing? 

Another way of framing the issue could be, it is the responsibility of local government to give priority to individuals and families that are subjected to poverty as opposed to those involved in Capitalist enterprises? I always thought that Capitalists believed in competition and that the free market should not be regulated by the government. Why do taxpayers have to foot the bill, by paying out more than $45 Million for business districts and other economic development project in the City? And we don’t we get to vote on these matters? 

My conclusion is that the the City of Grand Rapids is only recently involved in the business of Affordable Housing – primarily because of public pressure – whereas, the City doesn’t think twice on being about the business of business development. As it is with most budgetary matters in government, it is not a question of there not being enough money to fund projects, it is always about priorities, and right now the City of Grand Rapids prioritizes funding business districts and tourism for downtown Grand Rapids over Affordable Housing.  

City of Grand Rapids gives permission for pro-US Military group to use Ah Nab Awen Park for an event that will land a US Military UH 72 Lakota helicopter

May 15, 2023

In the Tuesday, May 9th Committee of the Whole Agenda packet for the Grand Rapids City Commission, there is a list of upcoming special events that need approval by the City.

One of the events that was approved by the City of Grand Rapids reads:

Major Aime Kemppainen of Armed Forces Thanksgiving is requesting permission for a UH 72 Lakota helicopter to land in Ah-Nab-Awen Park on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 7:00 AM and depart at 12:00 PM as part of their annual event. GRPD and the Parks Department would approve this event.

So, let me get this straight. The City of Grand Rapids has approved an event that includes the landing of a US Military helicopter named after a Native Nation (Lakota), that will land at a park with an Indigenous name, on land that was stolen from Indigenous people, in order to teach young people about the contributions US Military personnel have made – even though the US Military killed and forcibly removed countless Indigenous people, specifically in the 19th Century,

According to the group Armed Forces Thanksgiving:

The Armed Forces Thanksgiving event was created in 2014 by a group of Grand Rapids businessmen with the objective of raising awareness and dialogue on the contributions our military personnel have made – and continue to make – on behalf of their families, friends, and country. The annual event provides a vehicle for our community, from teens to adults, to understand, honor, and express thanks for the service of those who have served or are serving in our Armed Forces.

Unless I am mistaken, there are already numerous holidays dedicated to honoring people who were in the US military, such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, arguably the 4th of July, and the now 9/11 commemorations, which also include US military personnel. There there are the countless ways that US military personnel and US militarism are inserted into the dominant culture, such as at sporting events and parades. 

Then there is the issue of US Militarism and Indigenous people. The US military has long referred to enemy areas as “Indian Country”, and they often refer to US military campaigns using Indigenous names, such as the US military campaign to hunt down Osama bin Laden, which was called Operation Geronimo. Then, there are the literally more than two dozen US Military aircraft that use Indigenous names. And of course, the US Military often claims as the primary argument for including Indigenous names for US Military equipment as a sign of “respect” and as a way to “honor Native Americans.” These claims are hollow and meaningless, especially since the primary relationship that the US Military has had with Indigenous people and Indigenous nations has been to kill Indigenous people, to displace them, to conquer them, with the stated goal of US territorial expansion. This has essentially been the relationship that the US Military has had with Indigenous people since the colonies became the United States of America. 

It’s bad enough that the group Armed Forces Thanksgiving has organized this event, but it is even more frustrating and insulting that the City of Grand Rapids has approved this event. Do those at the City of Grand Rapids not see how offensive and insulting this event is to Indigenous sovereignty? Do they not see how this event on May 19th normalizes Settler Colonialism and erases the legacy of conquest by the US Military of Indigenous peoples?

Michigan Democratic Representatives at opposite ends of the political spectrum over Israel/Palestine

May 11, 2023

A few days ago, Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib re-introduced a resolution calling on Congress to recognize “the ongoing Nakba and Palestinian refugees rights.”

The resolution introduced by Tlaib begins by saying:

Whereas May 15, 2023, is the 75th commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, meaning ‘‘catastrophe’’ in English, a term which refers to Israel’s uprooting, dispossession, and exile of the Palestinian people from their homeland, and Israeli politicians are increasingly threatening Palestinians with a second Nakba today;

Three paragraph’s later the resolution from the Michigan Representative goes in to say: 

Whereas, during the Nakba, Israel forcibly exiled or caused to flee for their lives under duress of military campaigns, which frequently included massacres and other atrocities committed against civilians, at least 750,000 Palestinians (approximately 75 percent of the indigenous population that had lived in areas that became Israel), who became refugees; 

At the other end of the spectrum, newly elected Rep. Hillary Scholten has made no comments about the resolution proposed by Representative Rashida Tlaib, but she did make a Facebook post on April 25th, which read: 

This week marks Israel’s 75th birthday. Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut! #Israel75

Now, for those who are familiar with the founding of the State of Israel, you cannot separate their founding with the massacres and the displacement of thousands of Palestinians, which is exactly what the Nakba commemorates. The fact that Rep. Scholten said nothing about this in her April 25th Facebook post nor the resolution proposal by Rep. Tlaib is instructive.

Now some may argue that there is no point in pursuing a resolution calling on Congress to recognize “the ongoing Nakba and Palestinian refugees rights,” as Rep. Tlaib has done, especially since the Israel Lobby is so powerful in the US. (See, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt) However, the idea of not pursuing something because there is significant opposition is cowardly. Rep. Tlaib faced down a Pro-Israel PAC in the 2022 Election, but was still able to win because she is committed to challenging not only the Israel Lobby, but the longstanding commitment of the US government to fund billions of dollars of military aid to Israel on an annual basis since the mid-1970s.

Michigan has one of the largest Arab American populations in the country, so it is not only out of a sense of justice that Rep. Tlaib speaks about against US support of Israel and in solidarity with Palestinians, but also because her district has a sizable Palestinian diaspora that she represents.

The Israel/Palestine issue has long plagued the Democratic Party. The Democrats Party needs to get behind the international movement to support Palestinian rights, and supporting Rep. Tlaib’s resolution is a good first step for Rep. Scholten to take, along with her Michigan colleagues. Taking this kind of a stand would make a strong statement to the Democratic National Committee, who for too long has been complicit in Israel’s violation of International Law. 

Private Jet users, like the DeVos family, create more pollution than people traveling on commercial flights: Reason #31 for why I have nothing but contempt for the DeVoses

May 10, 2023

The urgency around trying to work towards a more just and sustainable world for all life is no simple or easy matter. However, there are some fundamental truths that we have to come to terms with, like the fact that the wealthiest nations and the richest people on the planet cause a great deal more harm than the majority of the world’s population.

For instance, in a November 2022 report from Oxfam entitled, Carbon Billionaires: The investment emissions of the world’s richest people, states: 

The investments of just 125 billionaires emit 393 million tonnes of CO2e each year – the equivalent of France – at an individual annual average that is a million times higher than someone in the bottom 90 percent of humanity.

Just last week, the Institute for Policy Studies released a new study entitled, High Flyers 2023: How the Ultra-Rich Private Jet travel costs the rest of us and burns up the planet. Here are just a few of the major findings in that report:

  • Private jets emit at least 10 times more pollutants than commercial planes per passenger.
  • Thousands of municipal airports in the U.S. are funded by the public, but many primarily serve private and corporate jets.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, private jet use has increased by about a fifth and private jet emissions have increased more than 23 percent, according to a recent study.

The DeVos Family and their fleet of jets

It is always difficult to find out details about the wealth of the DeVos family, primarily because they don’t believe in full transparency and because they have diversified their wealth and assets in such a way as to make it difficult to track.

There was an interesting article from Business Insider in 2018, with a headline that read, Education secretary Betsy DeVos owns a fleet of 12 private jets and 4 helicopters. In that article it states: 

According to Forbes, the DeVos family owns a fleet of 12 private jets — 1 Boeing Business Jet, 5 Gulfstream G550’s, 1 Gulfstream G450, 2 Bombardier Challenger 350’s, 3 Cessna Citation CJ4’s — and four helicopters. 

We also know that while she was the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos used her own private jets to travel as Education Secretary, rather than using commercial planes.

Then there is the fact that the global corporation that Rich DeVos founded with Jay Van Andel, the Amway Corporation, also has a fleet of private jets and other planes, with their own hangar at the Kent County Airport. 

The Amway corporate jets get even more use than the private jets owned by the DeVos family, primarily because the Amway jets are used by more people, particularly the people who are near the top of earners in their notorious pyramid scheme. In addition, the Amway Corporation has partnered with other commercial airline companies to offer exclusive trips to Amway distributors for Amway conventions. One example was the partnership with the Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, which transported over 6,500 distributors and company representatives to Dubai.

Then there is the Charter School scheme that Dick DeVos runs, the West Michigan Aviation Academy. The West Michigan Aviation Academy, located at the Kent County Airport, is a school designed to create more pilots, but it also encourages more private jet/plane ownership and use. In the past, Dick DeVos has complained about his Charter School not getting enough public funding.

Therefore, on top of the fact that the DeVos family:

  • Makes massive political contributions to GOP candidates/politicians, which adopt policies that do tremendous harm to working class families, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and BIPOC people in general;
  • Uses their foundations to funnel millions to far right groups like Focus on the Family or think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute or the Mackinac Center for Public Policy;

The DeVos family and the Amway Corporation – just on the matter of air travel – emit at least 10 times more pollutants than anyone else who books a flight from the Kent County Airport. Lastly, besides travel for pleasure, the DeVos family uses their private jets to travel to places to meet with other disgustingly rich people to figure out new ways to expand their wealth and to exploit and oppress more of the world’s population, while creating more pollution and perpetuating Climate Change. Reason #31 for why we should have nothing but contempt for the most powerful family in West Michigan, the DeVos family. 

I was ignored and blocked from asking to see the GVSU Police Academy class curriculum for potential GRPD recruits

May 9, 2023

On Tuesday, April 25th, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved a recommendation from the Fiscal Committee to authorize Grand Rapids Police Department recruit classes to attend Grand Valley State University Police Academy for a total cost of $93,560.

The Fiscal Committee Agenda Packet for April 25 also states:

The process of hiring non-certified employees will broaden and increase the candidate pool of individuals that have a drive to serve the public. The anticipated class of ten recruits will run from May to August of 2023. Three have already paid for their own academy costs, which GRPD will reimburse directly should they successfully complete the program. Seven will be paid for by GRPD but reimbursed by Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) Public Safety Academy Assistance Program should funding be approved. The estimated cost of the training and certification for these ten candidates, which includes tuition, student fees, and uniform expenses totals $93,560.

There were several people who spoke during the first public comment period, most of which opposed the $93,560 being spent on new recruits. Some suggested that the money could better be spent on housing or other community needs, rather than on potential new recruits for the GRPD.

In response to the opposition to this additional spending by the GRPD, 3rd Ward Commissioner Kelsey Perdue stated she believed that, “in order to have better policing, we need better training.” Now, to be clear, the $93,560 that was approved on April 25th is not about “providing better training,” it is to pay GVSU for a class for potential GRPD recruits. The GRPD may or may not accept those who attend the GVSU classes at their Police Academy.

GVSU Police Academy

According to the GVSU Police Academy page, it states: 

The Grand Valley State University Police Academy educates and trains police recruits so they graduate with the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to begin a successful career in law enforcement. Grand Valley is known as a leader in the state for police academy training and has been setting the bar for law enforcement for over 40 years.

In addition, the GVSU Police Academy website says:

The vast majority of the instruction comes from local law-enforcement officers with a wealth of knowledge and years of experience. The academy is rigorous but your instructors and support staff will be there to support you from the time you enter to the time you graduate. This kind of intimate support is what GVSU is known for and it applies to the Academy as well.

The cost of the classes that were approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission on April 25th, run from May through August of 2023. I inquired about the curriculum for the GVSU Police Academy Courses, through their online portal on April 29th, but still haven’t received any response. Then, when I sent an e-mail to the Director of Training, Geoff Collard, this was their response: Your message to has been blocked. 

In all my years of using gmail, I have never been blocked by any government, corporate or academic institution. So much for transparency.

This lack of transparency on the curriculum being used in the classes for potential GRPD recruits is somewhat disturbing, but not surprising. However, it does raise the question if Commissioner Perdue knew what she was talking about regarding better training. It seems unlikely that she has seen or read the curriculum being used by the GVSU Police Academy, thus making her comments all that more ridiculous and out of touch with what is actually happening with potential GRPD recruits. The public deserves better and should demand better. I encourage others to fill out the request field from the GVSU Police Academy and send Geoff Collard an e-mail ( message as well demanding to see the curriculum being used for potential GRPD recruits.

How the news is often constructed: Deconstructing the WZZM 13 story on the MMIP rally and march for May 5th in Grand Rapids

May 8, 2023

One major element of Media Literacy is the idea that all media is constructed. There isn’t a 360 degree video shot that is unfiltered. The news media essentially gives us what they want to give us and when they want to give us the news.

A clear example was the recent Missing or Murdered Indigenous Person’s awareness day action that took place on Friday, May 5th, in downtown Grand Rapids. I was at that event, so I decided to record the full interview that WZZM 13 did with one of the organizers of the event, Jade Green. Here is the unedited interview that channel 13 conducted with Jade.

Now, here is the WZZM 13 story as it aired later that night for their 11pm news broadcast.

After looking at the unedited version of what Jade had to say and what they included in the channel 13 news story, one can see/hear that they use just a few seconds of what the Indigenous Youth organizer had to say. The portion of the interview was a pretty good one, since the comment from Jade challenged the Federal and State governments to do more than just pass resolutions. 

However, had channel 13 stayed for the entire program, which included several Indigenous speakers and a march through downtown Grand Rapids, they would have captured a great deal more that would have provided viewers a more complete sense of what Indigenous people are demanding. For instance, speakers hit a several important issues during their talks, such as:

  • Making sure that people understood that MMIP included, men, women, children and two-spirit members of the Indigenous community, something that is important, especially since there is a great deal of backlash and the LGBTQ community, particularly the trans community. 
  • That Line 5 must be shut down immediately, since it directly impacts Indigenous communities and violates numerous treaties.
  • In edition, pipeline projects and other fossil fuel extraction projects, like the Willow Project in Alaska, which one of the speakers addressed, is important because it means that camps are set up for oil & pas workers, what are general referred to as “man camps.” It has been well documented that the presence of oil & gas workers always increases the possibility of sexual assault and murder of Indigenous people, which has been well documented, like the findings in this article by the Center for Public Integrity.

A fourth, and last point, was the fact that the WZZM 13 newsreader stated that the youth organizer who was interviewed said that the violence against Indigenous people is genocide. Now, it is a common misunderstanding that when people hear the word genocide, they think that means the outright extermination of a group of people. However, genocide, as was determined by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, means more than the killing of a group of people. Here are the ways that genocide can be perpetrated against Indigenous people.

Article II 

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 

  1. Killing members of the group; 
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; 
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. 

Overall, the WZZM 13 story was not an awful story on the MMIP rally/march, but it was fairly superficial, missing an expanded critique of how violence is being perpetrated against Indigenous people in North America, along with no real list of demands or concrete examples sexual assault and violence that several speakers have experienced, along with the lasting trauma they must live with for the rest of their lives. All news agencies can and must do better when reporting on critical issues that affect communities, particularly communities that are highly marginalized in the dominant society.

Elected officials need to participate in the social movements that are being led by BIPOC communities in Grand Rapids

May 7, 2023

Last week, we wrote about the annual May Day march that was organized by Movimiento Cosecha, the immigrant-led movement that works on a variety of issues specific to those who are undocumented, but are currently fighting to win Driver’s Licenses for All in Michigan.

Most of the 200 people that marched last Monday were undocumented immigrants, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the state. This is why it was particularly frustrating to observe last Monday that not one State Legislator from the Democratic Party was present to walk in solidarity with a community of people who live in constant fear of arrest, detention and deportation.

The Kent County Democratic Party likely knew that the annual May Day march organized by Movimiento Cosecha was being held, since newly elected Kent County Commissioner Ivan Diaz shared the information about the Cosecha march. Even if not every Democratic State Legislator didn’t know about the Cosecha May Day march, they should, since Movimiento Cosecha is the movement that put Driver’s Licenses for All on the map in Michigan. 

Yes, there is a politically inside group, Drive Michigan Forward, who has been working with State Legislators to pass a driver’s license bill, but this group did not start organizing until years after Movimiento Cosecha began demanding driver’s licenses for the undocumented community. Plus many of those involved in this coalition, came out of Movimiento Cosecha.

In addition, as State Legislators who have introduced or supported passing a Driver’s Licenses for All bill in Michigan, they should be attending actions like the annual May Day march. If State Legislators showed up to these events, it would send a message to the undocumented immigrant community that they want to support them, that they want to hear their stories and their concerns. 

Then there was the fact that in late March, Movimiento Cosecha visited State Senator Winnie Brinks at her office in Lansing. Senator Brinks was not there, but Cosecha members spoke with her staff, providing information in English and Spanish and inviting her to participate in the May Day march.

Now, some might say that since Senator Brinks, who has introduced a bill in support of Driver’s Licenses, doesn’t need to attend Movimiento Cosecha events. People are aware of the fact that Senator Brinks has introduced legislation, but the undocumented community, who can’t obtain Driver’s Licenses, also cannot vote. Therefore, it seems to me that regardless of whether or not people can vote, if they are some of the most vulnerable people in the state, then elected officials should make it a priority to develop relationships with them.

In looking at Senator Brinks’ Facebook page, it is clear that she attended several other events last week and even a local coffee shop that was just a few blocks from where the May Day march had been walking in the rain last Monday. People in positions of power and privilege need to interact with, develop relationships with, and be in solidarity with undocumented immigrants. Proposing legislation and even passing legislation are not enough, since they can learn a great deal from those who facing family separation on a daily basis.

Imagine that millions of dollars of public money were used for public needs and not to underwrite the projects proposed by the Capitalist Class in Grand Rapids

May 4, 2023

Two weeks ago, MLive posted an article entitled, Making room for proposed riverfront amphitheater could cost Grand Rapids $58M. 

Early on in the MLive article it states: 

On Tuesday, April 25, Grand Rapids city leaders approved a notice of intent to issue up to $60 million in bonds which would help fund the purchase and renovation of the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex location at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW. Grand Rapids plans to relocate its operations at the city-owned 201 Market Ave. property to the Scribner Avenue location.

Since October of 2020, we have been tracking this story, especially since the outdoor amphitheater project is being run by Grand Action 2.0, an organization run by the Grand Rapids Power Structure. Here are some of the other articles we have posted on GRIID about the outdoor amphitheater project:

Grand Rapids invests over $6 million for private development in downtown, while Southeast Grand Rapids experiences disinvestment: We call this Structural Racism

Grand Action 2.0 speaker provides update on new development vision for Grand Rapids: Whiteness, Grand Rapids as a destination and Disaster Capitalism

DeVos controlled Amphitheater Project using public money will be voted on at the February 9th Grand Rapids City Commission meeting 

How is it that we allow groups like Grand Action 2.0 to get away with the shit they do?

In a June 2021 post on GRIID, we wrote: 

This whole project so far has involved roughly $42 million, between the City of Grand Rapids, the Convention and Arena Authority and the DeVos-owned 63 Market St LLC. This is a great deal of money, which demonstrates that when a multi-billionaire family the the DeVos family wants something, they usually get it. Sure, building an outdoor amphitheater will bring more people, including more tourists to Grand Rapids, which means more money will be spent in the city. But, we must always ask ourselves who are the primary beneficiaries of such projects?

Then, in March of 2022, GRIID noted that the City of Grand Rapids unanimously approved the new $116M land purchase for Amphitheater project. One question we asked in the March 2022 article was, “when was the last time that the City of Grand Rapids spent $35.7 Million on a project that would specifically benefit the Black community or any other marginalized community in this city? In fact, we could expand this question to include the amount of money that is estimate to be spent on the larger 31 acre riverfront development (includes the amphitheater), which is $500 Million. When was the last time the City of Grand Rapids spent $500 Million to benefit the BIPOC community in this city?” 

In June of 2022, we then learned that the State of Michigan would be providing an estimated $30 million for the downtown amphitheater project, which is also public money.

This brings us to the present, where we are once again told that an additional $58 Million will be spent by the City of Grand Rapids to move some of the City’s operations to purchase and renovate the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex location at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW. 

There are a few things that are important to point out about all of this. First, the MLive article from last week is not quite accurate when they wrote that amphitheater could cost Grand Rapids $58M. This latest aspect of the amphitheater project will cost taxpayers $58 Million to move some of the City’s operations to purchase and renovate the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex location at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW.  The same way it was reported that the State would contribute $30 Million to the downtown Grand Rapids Amphitheater project is misleading, since the State of Michigan will be using $30 Million of taxpayer money, public money, to contribute to the outdoor amphitheater project. 

A second point about this is that even though we are talking about $88 Million, plus however many other millions have been negotiated for this project, the public had NO say in the $88 Million of their money being spent on the amphitheater project. Now, I know that we have a representative form of government, but no politician, not at the City, County or State level, ever asked me or anyone else I know, whether or not they wanted $88 Million – plus in public money going to a project that was proposed by the most powerful family in West Michigan.

And third, the failure of the local news media to question these types of projects, which are always subsidized by public money with no public input, limits our collective imagination about what taxpayer money, public money could be used for. 

Imagine if the $88 Million we are talking about in this post, which is only part of the total amount that the public will pay towards the outdoor amphitheater project, imagine if that public money were spent on:

  • Public housing in Grand Rapids
  • Public transportation in Grand Rapids
  • Public Education in Grand Rapids
  • The creation of living wage jobs
  • Renewable energy projects to power homes in Grand Rapids
  • To subsidize child care for working class families in Grand Rapids
  • To fight food insecurity in Grand Rapids
  • To fight Structural Racism in Grand Rapids

The only way we will ever be able to imagine, work on and implement these kinds of projects is if the public begins to say no and then actively resist the use of public money for projects like the downtown amphitheater, then start demanding that public money be used to meet real public needs. Imagine that!